Patchouli to Pine Sol My Parenting Journey

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The kids and I about four years ago.

The kids and I about four years ago.


I started out as a totally hippie, granola-munching, tree-hugging mama. I gave birth to my kids at home. I breast fed them for two years. I used Waldorf style toys and books (all wood, silk scarfs for dress up, and lovely fairy stories). I fed them organic vegan meals, which I made while thinking on how special my family was and how much I loved them.

Of course my kids had other ideas.

My son wanted to play with GUNS *gasp* and wear camo and crawl in the dirt and pretend to shoot bad guys.
My daughter wanted Barbies, and make-up, and her own gun and camo to follow her brother around.

I fought it.

They eventually won.

I bought Barbies from the Princess of the World Collection so at least my daughter had a variety of ethnic Barbies to play with.

I bought my son toy guns, camo, and G I Joe dolls but also toy swords and cloaks so he could play Lord of the Rings.
I took them to faerie festivals, folk music festivals, and to see the latest movies.

Then I started working at a group home, where the state licensing board sets the standards and rules. Where I work with kids who need clear firm rules and boundaries. Kids who don’t handle changes in their routine.

Kids who have to deal with public schools and conform to the rules, instead of going to alternative hippie charter schools.

Kids who need a doctors permission for me to give them herbs or vitamins, like I could ever get that. Kids I can give over-the-counter medications, but not homeopathic formulas. Kids can stay home only if they have a fever, diarrhea, or are vomiting.

Unlike my personal kids who stay home because they are sick, or super tired, or “Mom, I might shank someone if you send me to school today.”

So now my house smells like Pine Sol instead of patchouli.

Clothes are chosen based of cost and conformity instead of expressing one’s personal style this week.
I like what I do. I understand the importance of helping these children mesh with society, learn social skills, and fit in with their peers.

Kids who think that if you can’t behave in a socially appropriate manner you’re not eccentric, or expressing yourself, you’re hindered and awkward, and feel left out.

I understand that being a firm, stable, in-control person in their life is essential. And I’m not saying one parenting style is better than the other. In fact I personally believe a blend is ideal: firm clear boundaries and structure so they feel safe and learn ‘proper’ behavior, within which they are given freedom to explore who they are and their individual style, passions, and skills.

Alica Mckenna-Johnson

My kids six months ago.

What has your parenting journey been like? Are you the kind of parent you thought you would be before you had kids?

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10 responses »

  1. do you ever feel weird about the two ways you have had to parent the children in your life? was the change hard, is it still hard?
    i find how i want to parent is sometimes not how i get to parent because i have a bunch of kids who all need a different sort of mom at different times. i guess that is what it is for most people, i mean you dream about parenting one way and end up doing what your kids need instead. 🙂

    • I used to feel weird about it, especially at the beginning. But now that I’ve had more training and understand what they need better its easier. There are times when I wish I was fostering or adopting them so I could parent them they way I really want to.

  2. Hey Woman, I don’t know yet. I am only 2 months pregnant. I will find out in about 7 months, then I will tell you.:-)

    Sincerely, Aida

  3. My parenting changed because my child turned out to be a real person with his own needs and wants and desires. He was not the imaginary child I’d had before I got pregnant. I am not the parent I thought I’d be, not by a long shot, but I am the parent I am supposed to be in this moment.

  4. Yep, from the first moment, that baby can run right over whatever parenting plans you may have. Heck, some of them start before birth, when you end up doing something (throwing up for 8 months? bed rest? Induction?) that you always swore you’d never do. As parents, we really have so little control.

    I guess the important thing is to pay attention to your child and be the parent that child needs.

    Alicia, I think you are brave and awesome to take in these kids. Your whole family is awesome too, because this is not a 9-5 job. They’re in it every minute with you. Every bit of love and caring you and your family provide is a bright spot forever in the lives of those kids. Honest, it takes my breath away.

    • So true Marlene, I was expecting to love being pregnant, but not really. I hadn’t thought of it like that before. Yes I had to learn to be very flexible trying to become a good parent for my kids.
      And thanks, it is trying but it has its rewording moments 🙂

  5. Hippie dippy just got hippier and dippier as I went along. I’m just really grateful that my boy child grew out of the guns and camo phase before he did something unhippie dippy like join the military.

    That part of life was good, but I am so glad it is over. I like hanging out with them as grown-ups much better. If I never ask “is your room clean?” again that would be great.

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